Oxfam report highlights ‘wealth inequality crisis’

Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Joe Giddens/PA Wire

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Growing inequality means that the world’s wealthiest 62 people own as much as the poorest half of the planet’s population – some 3.6 billion people – according to a new report from Oxfam.

The richest one per cent – around 73 million out of the world’s 7.3 billion people – now own as much as everyone else put together, said the report, published ahead of the annual World Economic Forum of global political and business leaders in Swiss ski resort Davos.

Oxfam said urgent action was needed to tackle the “inequality crisis” and called on world leaders – including Prime Minister David Cameron – to take action to crack down on tax-dodging by the rich, which denies governments in the developing world billions of pounds a year.

Mr Cameron promised in a speech in Davos three years ago to get tough on avoidance, warning corporate tax-dodgers to “wake up and smell the coffee”.

But Oxfam said that promised measures to increase transparency in British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, such as the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands, have not yet been implemented. While the UK has made good on Mr Cameron’s promise to introduce public registers of companies’ owners, only one overseas territory – Montserrat – has followed suit.

The report found that the gap between rich and poor had widened “dramatically” over the past 12 months. As recently as 2010, the combined wealth of the 388 richest people was needed to equal that of the poorest half of the world, but that number has since plummeted to 80 last year and 62 now.

The total wealth of the poorest half of the world fell by a trillion US dollars (£694bn) since 2010 even though the number of people in this group rose by 400 million, said the report.